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Expressing faith through the Sinulog

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : The annual Sinulog Festival staged on January 20 by the League of Overseas Visayan Association in Chater Garden to mark the feast of Sto. Niño rekindled memories of how Christianity was introduced to The Philippines and how the Sto. Niño became a symbol of faith.

The celebration kicked off with a street parade of a variety of groups bearing images of the Sto. Niño. More than 400 people then took part in a Mass celebrated by John Cardinal Tong Hon and by Father Alfredo Rollon, from the chaplaincy for Filipino migrants, and Father Rodolfo Jacobe.

Cardinal Tong said he felt honoured to be invited to celebrate the Mass on what is a much-celebrated feast in Cebu, The Philippines.

“Celebrating this feast is meaningful, because in 1521 the faith was brought by Spanish missionaries to Cebu and from that time on, faith was being deepened in your great motherland,” he said.

The cardinal reminded the gathering that in this Year of Faith, we should set a goal to bring our faith to other people, particularly those who do not know Jesus as Lord and saviour, and to bring back those who have left the Church.

Father Rollon spoke of the miracles and healing stories that have been attributed to devotion to Sto. Niño.

He pointed out that the image of Sto. Niño conveys a story of God, the story of the life of Jesus. He explained that the presence of the boy saint tells us a part of the story of the gospel—that Jesus Christ was born and became a child like us.

Father Rollon went on to say that Jesus Christ is characterised by obedience to God and as the son of Joseph and Mary.

“In this feast, we celebrate the presence of God; to recall the story of our salvation and to learn from Jesus and eventually become children of God,” he concluded.

During the afternoon programme, Sister Cielo Matulog explained that the Sinulog was once a dance performed by the indigenous people of Cebu in honour of their wooden idols and antios, before the Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, sailed his ships flying the flag of Spain to Cebu in 1521, and that it represents the link between the country’s past and the transformation into its mostly Christian present.

She described it as the most colourful Catholic festival that The Philippines has brought to the shores of other countries.

“It is hoped that through this great event and simple devotion of dancing the Sinulog, we can show to other people the true meaning of the event and let them feel the miraculous power of God through this simple devotion,” she said.

She noted the festival is a kind of faith sharing which is especially important in the Year of faith.

“Today, in our celebration of this Sinulog Festival in honour of the Sto. Niño, we hope that in this simple activity we show to others the faith we received and share with them what this faith is and what it means to our life,” she concluded.

Three groups joined in the Sinulog competition with the Hamili group coming out on top.

Through colourful costumes and unfamiliar rhythm of the upbeat music, the dance presents a story from ancient Cebu where the rocks and rivers were objects for worship.

However, catastrophic fire destroyed the paradise and the villagers asked help from God; thus their land was healed.

Rhodora Solinap, from the winning group Hamili, told Mabuhay that they practiced the dance for four to five hours over several Sunday afternoons in the run up to the festival.

She regarded participating in the Sinulog as a way of binding friendships in her community and of further developing the latent talents members possess.

Marly Ricatort, who danced the part of the queen and wife of the sultan of Mactan, Juana, said she tried to incorporate some modern dance elements into the traditional Sinulog steps to make her performance more unique.

She said that she has danced the part for four years at Sinulog contests in Macau and had won a number of awards for her creativity in the role. “The dance itself made me feel happy,” she said.

Second place went to the Isabela Federation, which told a story through dance about how the images of the Sto. Niño were brought to the homes of people in Isabela, bringing them joy and hope.

The Philippine International Dance Group came in third with its depiction of how the Sto. Niño blessed a group of flower farmers.

The winner of the Ati-atihan festival at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos on January 13, the St. Cecilia Group, as well as the champion of the Sinulog competition in Hong Kong last year, the Mindanao Federation, put on performances as well. 

Philippine consul general to Hong Kong, Noel Servigon, and vice consul, Charles Andrei Macaspac, attended the afternoon programme. Servigon expressed his gratitude to the organiser and the participants for bringing the Filipino cultural heritage to Hong Kong.

... we hope that in this simple activity we show to others the faith we received and share with them what this faith is and what it means
to our life


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